COCA, Grand Center and The Rep

Columnist Lois Caplan

IT’S A DOUBLE HEADER FOR COCA, the Center for Creative Arts, which has been enriching our community culturally since its founding in 1986. “Come Party!” Friday night, Oct. 1 is COCA’s gala fundraiser and “Come Play!” Saturday, Oct. 2 is a community celebration; both events take place at 524 Trinity Avenue. It’s a weekend celebration honoring founding director Stephanie Riven and COCA’s new executive director Kelly Pollock. The cost of the Friday night wing-ding is $350 per person while the next day event is free and open to the public.  For Friday night reservations, call Gina Wake at 314-725-1834, ext. 144. For more information visit

Before I tell you about this extraordinary party, you should know where the dough is going. Proceeds will go to COCA programs and services, including the Urban Arts and Scholarship Programs, which provides need-based scholarships for 400 children. I am constantly amazed at COCA’s remarkable help to underserved (translation – impoverished) children like two of the stars of “Come Party!” – Rodney Hamilton now in Ballet Hispanico and Antonio Douthit is a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Proceeds will also go to the Stephanie Riven Legacy Fund, which was established to honor Riven and to eliminate the balance on the 2005 renovation and expansion of COCA’s facility.

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“Come Party!” is an evening of cocktails, gourmet food, dance and art. An art installation by Jill Downen will be unveiled. There will be an aerial dance performance on COCA’s exterior walls by Quixotic Fusion. You’ll see a one-of-a-kind show featuring Hamilton and Douthit as they dance a piece choreographed by Robert Battle, new Alvin Ailey artistic director. Performances by current COCA students, vocals by Denise Thimes and dance to Anthony Tudor’s re-staged choreography are all in the planning stage. I am told that Lisa Caplan of Touchwood, Inc. is producing all the magic of the evening on the COCA stages…indoors and out. Of course she’s my daughter – small but mighty and very creative.

“Come Play!” sounds wonderful for kids and their parents and grandparents, too.   It will feature performances by local musicians, dancers, balloon sculptors and circus artists from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to sing, dance and participate in projects such as sidewalk chalk murals and the chance to help create a commemorative work. On the COCA parking lot there will be a dance party with dance styles from Hip Hop to pre-school creative movement.  Food vendors will be there for snacks or lunch. No reservations required – just “Come Play!”

• Grand Boulevard from Lindell to Delmar will be alive with all sorts of body movement on Saturday, Sept. 25 at Grand Center’s fourth annual “Dancing in the Street” festival.  More than 75 performances and 700 dancers will present a variety of dance styles including tap, ballet, clog, modern, hip hop, belly, jazz, salsa, flamenco, Broadway, contemporary, folk, and Bollywood (whatever that is).  There will be four performance stages located on Grand Boulevard,  north of Lindell; on Olive, between Grand and Spring; on Washington, east of Grand and on Samuel Shepard Drive, east of Grand.  In addition, there will be site-specific performances throughout the area. The audience is invited to jump in on the fun at a community street dance choreographed by COCA.  You can learn the dance through an instructional video on YouTube, show up and perform it with the rest of the crowd on the day of the festival. No registration is required nor any talent – just enthusiasm.

 The great number of dance companies will provide the talent. “Dancing in the Street” attracts the best talent from all parts of our region and is also recognized for introducing world-class national acts to St. Louis.  This year, for the first time, we will meet Chicago-based AMEBA Acrobatic and Aerial Dance which integrate athleticism and daring of acrobatics and serial arts into the voice of contemporary dance. Buckets and Tap Shoes of Minneapolis will return with its explosive, high energy street performance.  Add to this the many local and regional dance companies and you have a plethora of choreographed sights and sounds.  The Grand Center event, open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. is free and open to the public. Since there are ample parking lots and garages, parking should not be a problem.

“You Can’t Take It With You,” Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Pulitzer Prize winning comedy, will brighten the stage at The Repertory Theatre of St Louis Sept. 8 through Oct. 3.  It’s been eons since I last saw it, but I am still chuckling at some of its antics. The zany Sycamore family, including Grandpa, the fireworks maker, and his granddaughter, the klutzy would-be ballerina, are still engraved in my memory. 

Some folks have asked me why The Rep would resurrect such an “old turkey.” I’ve responded that it’s one of the funniest plays in the world and younger generations should not be deprived of the opportunity to see “You Can’t Take It with You.” For tickets call 314-968-4925 or visit the Rep’s online box office at